Where are our Oompa Loompas?

As followers of this blog know, our friends in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Ohio currently make MUCHOMAS Chocolate.    But this holiday season, Team MUCHOMAS was lucky enough to receive some home chocolate making equipment as gifts.  This allowed us to try to make some chocolate from bean to bar all by ourselves!

Well, not entirely by ourselves.  We had lots of help from John Nanci’s incredible Chocolate Alchemy website – highly recommended for anyone interested in learning from a true legend of bean to bar chocolate. Let us tell you, it was hard!  Now we know why Willy Wonka employed so many Oompa Loompas.  

In this post, we will walk you through Day 1 of our attempt. 

Step 1 – Find a pan that actually fits in the oven.

After the beans arrive in the US.  The first step in turning Giff’s amazing cacao into chocolate is to roast the beans.   If you want to know more about what happens to Giff’s beans before they leave Nicaragua, check out our post on the importance of drying and fermenting beans properly.

Roasting cacao sounds easy.  Put some cacao in the oven and roast it.  Of course, in practice it is one of the more delicate and difficult parts of the process and the proper roasting procedure varies for every origin and batch of cacao.  But for a first try we just kind of winged it and waited for the cacao to smell like delicious brownies.  Of course, having a pan that fits in the oven also helps!

Step 2 – Get Crackin’

After the beans are roasted, the next step in the process is to crack the beans.  There are various ways to go about doing this.  Our method was to run them through a juicer with no screen to quickly break them up without grinding them into powder.  It worked pretty well – especially when they weren’t flying all over the room after being shot back out the top of the juicer. . .

After this is done, we were left with a nice mix of nibs and shell.  It looked like this:

Stay tuned next week as we go through the process of winnowing – i.e., separating the nibs from the husk.   It will feature a use for a hair dryer you probably never thought of!